Since moving to Wiesbaden in 2010, my husband and I have split our Christmasses evenly between Germany and England. Sometimes we’ve done it quite literally, spending Heiligabend (24th December) in Mainz, opening our presents in the glow of my in-laws’ candlelit tree, before flying to London for turkey the next day. More recently, we began alternating between spending the entire festive period in one place or the other.
This year, for the first time, we were not in Europe at all: having set up camp across the Potomac river from Washington, DC for twelve months, we celebrated a sort of British-German-American Christmas, thousands of miles from home. We spent Christmas somewhere foreign to all of us, decorating our Virginian tree with someone else’s ornaments, hanging a wreath on our interim front door, and happily merging our native and family traditions to create a new version of Christmas, all of our own.
The food we cooked and ate together, as it turned out, was almost entirely German in origin. We kicked off Heiligabend a little early (it officially begins at 6pm), nibbling on Pfeffernüsse and drinking cups of hot black tea as we unwrapped parcels on the floor by the tree. We kept dinner quite simple, as is customary in Germany, enjoying my husband’s excellent Kartoffelsalat alongside wild boar and bacon sausages. Having roasted a turkey for Thanksgiving, I was keen to serve up a different bird on Christmas Day, so for dinner that evening, we carved the breasts off a crispy, succulent roast duck and ate them with rather avant-garde looking Kartoffelklöße (potato dumplings) and a spoonfuls of deep purple braised red cabbage. And as our German landlord had kindly left us a Lindt Christmas Santa as a welcome gift, we polished that off for dessert.
We visited friends on Boxing Day (26th), taking a slightly tweaked version of Luisa Weiss’s dunkler Kirschkuchen (spiced chocolate and cherry cake) from her new book, Classic German Baking. It was a rich, chocolatey triumph, devoured by all with glee.
More on that next time, including Luisa’s recipe, which was just too good not to share. Until then, I hope you’ve had a wonderful holiday period, whatever and however you celebrated, if anything at all. I’d love to know what you ate…